Surprisingly Vocal

Brian,

The following is a list of people who’ve lost respect for you when you’ve been surprisingly vocal about not being able to help your fourth-grade daughter, Rachel, with math.

  1. Your friends: When you were hanging out at Spills, having a couple beers after the that Bourne movie, you said that you realized that you’d forgotten how to work ratio problems when you were helping Rachel. You said: “I always get confused about the numerator and the denominator, like which is on the top and which is on the bottom? That’s just a terminology thing, I guess. And then how do you know . . . I don’t even think I can explain it.” Everyone at the table laughed, because they’re not monsters, but they were all setting up and solving ratio problems in their heads to check and see if they found it confusing, and none of them did. They kept it to themselves. Dan, as an engineer, has no trouble with ratio problems at all—he’s more than a little familiar with differential equations. Everyone at the table lost a moderate amount of respect for you.
  2. Most of your coworkers: You showed a lot of surprise when Debbie calculated the total number of cookies in 9 boxes of 1 dozen snickerdoodles in her head. “Oh,” Debbie said, “it’s just 9 times 12.” You started to tell everyone in the break-room about how you’ve been helping Rachel with times-tables and when she gets up into the 9 times or 11 times or 12 times level, you’re pretty much useless. Everyone in the room knew their times-tables, all the way up through 12 times 12 (which is 144). They had a really hard time empathizing with you on this, and it’ll be reflected in your loss of opportunities at the company.
  3. Your in-laws: To be completely honest, they’re starting out with a pretty low level of respect. So this is a drop in the bucket. But you were talking about how smart Rachel is, and said that you “can’t do division unless it’s set up in the box way,” and that if it’s a problem where there’s a “line with a dot on top and a dot on the bottom, I’m stumped.” They’re resigned about you at this point, but your father-in-law couldn’t stop thinking about this and was silent for the rest of Rachel’s birthday party.
  4. Scarlet, a cashier at Martin’s Country Market: You thought you were overcharged for lentils, so you held up the line and tried to use a pen and paper to figure out exactly where the problem was and couldn’t do it. The problem was that you’d forgotten about borrowing in subtraction, and Scarlet knew exactly what you’d forgotten to do, but just stood there staring at you, not telling you. When you finally gave up, you said that you should have brought Rachel, your fourth-grade daughter, and she would have been able to do it. “She’s way ahead of me,” you said. Scarlet spends every shift being annoyed with nearly every patron, but now when you buy bulk oats (cheap by weight), she puts in the code for pine nuts (expensive by weight), and you never notice.

Please stop doing this. It’s ruining your life.

Sincerely,

God

Surprisingly Vocal

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